La Traviata – Verdi – Royal Opera House
La traviata had a somewhat complicated beginning. This opera – The Fallen Woman – is a Verdi opera in three acts, adapted from the novel La Dame aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas. It opened in 1853 at La Fenice in Venice.
Despite the Composer’s wish for a contemporary setting, the local authority insisted that the action be set in the early 18th century and it wasn’t until the 1880s that a more contemporary production was staged. In the original production, the acclaimed soprano singing the lead of Violetta was booed because she was considered to be too old (at 38) and too overweight to credibly play a young woman dying of consumption!
The Royal Opera House is in its 16th revival of Richard Eyre’s 1994 production, which is still a feast for the eyes. The production really hasn’t changed over the years and the bordello gambling scene at the end of Act 2 never ceases to amaze the audience, who delight in applause for the production itself. The casts have been vastly different throughout the incredible run of this production and the performance on Monday 14 January 2019 can reflect on some of the best singing for many years.
The Violetta of the Albanian soprano, Ermonela Jaho – reprised from her 2008 debut – was a masterclass in performing this particularly difficult role. Her voice is pure with great shades of light and dark and great attack at the top of her range. She risks all on so many occasions with floated notes and pianissimo, but her performance is not just about voice, it is also about the interpretation of the role and at the end of the opera after the third Act dying scene she is both vocally and physically exhausted. It is probably her ideal role and everything she has is left on the stage.
Her lover, Alfredo, is steadily sung by the American tenor, Charles Castronovo, who has a ringing quality to his sound. His father, Giorgio, is the Russian baritone Igor Golovatenko, who has a substantial voice of real quality, although one wished occasionally for slightly more subtlety in his projection.
The rest of the roles were well sung and the musical evening was controlled by the Conductor, Antonello Manacorda. Both orchestra and chorus were in fine form.
Tears all round at the end.